Hybrids, a Throwback



I first introduced this person in my blog as my “Niecephew,” a hybrid between a niece and a nephew because we didn’t know yet. Now she’s my niece Emma Lou. Still a hybrid though. She’s a hybrid between an angel and a human, as you can clearly see. 


When I was in college, I wrote a weekly column called “Sunny Side Up with Amanda Doran.”

Stay with me.

This is pretty weird but it’s an interesting peak into life 9 years ago. This piece is from “The Towerlight,” Towson University’s student-run newspaper. The following was published on September 3, 2009 but is still, I think, kind of humorous. I’ve made some small changes but mostly, this is the same piece from my senior year of college. It kind of scares me how similarly I think, although, I do not have a hybrid, I think sporks do neither task well, and I can barely believe I entertained the thought of a mullet.


“Some Hypotheses Regarding Hybrids”

I think about the recently expired “Cash for Clunkers” every time I enter my wad-of-tape Jetta, which has recently decided to lower its miles per take by 60 miles, increasing both my trips to the gas station and haunting regret that I couldn’t afford to take part in the recent tax credit program. “Cash for Clunkers” has certainly also increased talk about hybrids… and oh, how I wish I drove one and so does my Discover bill.

But instead of wasting time yearning for a Prius I have been trying to think of other hybrids that deserve recognition in order to encourage myself that I too have a hybrid or two in my life, even if my car drinks gasoline like it’s beer at a Friday happy hour.

I imagine one of the first examples of a hybrid goad back to Greek mythology with Pan, half-man, half-goat. In the animated version of “Hercules,” Danny Devito verbally delivers a stellar impression of the mythic man-goat, solidifying the genius of such a creature even in our day and age.

Additionally, I recall that there are hybrids in plant biology if I can correctly think back far enough to when I didn’t take only English classes. But the hybrids that are more capturing in science are the hybrid animals. As Napolean Dynamite pointed out to all of us a “liger,” half-lion, half-tiger is deserved of favorite animal status.

I’ve also read up (on a not-so-reliable website) that “zorses,” and “zonkeys,” and “zonys” are possible zebra combinations. I guess a lot of the animal kingdom wants to mate with the zebra. I can’t wait to hear about zumans or humbras (zerbra and huma) and I trust that the “National Inquirer” will report on one in due time.

Just yesterday for lunch I packed a serving of asparagus and a yogurt cup. Did I arm myself with two whole different utensils?

No, I packed a spork, the underrated combination of a spoon and a fork!

I was able to stab and enjoy my asparagus then scoop and enjoy my yogurt with just one tool.

While we’re on the topic of dairy, half and half, milk and cream, is maybe the most pronounced and common hybrid of daily life.

The realization took me back to my days of wearing “skorts,” a 90s hybrid of a skirt and shorts. These were typically denim with the shorts revealed in the back and the skirt dazzling up front.

And as my train of thoughts go, I started to think of the mullet, a hybrid haircut often referred to as “business in the front, part in the back.”

A mullet is the ideal haircut for attention-getting because everybody likes to point out a good, old-fashioned mullet.

Furthermore, I suppose that secondary colors could be seen as hybrids as well. Purple is simply a combination of blue and read and orange is just yellow plus red. But this raises the question, who says that, blue, and yellow came first?

What if they had made sporks before traditional utensils? What if we were all just zumans with black and white stripes but human qualities? When noticing hybrids, it is valuable to point out that any of these things could have just come first and not been slapped with the hybrid label.

But since we’ve decided that combinations of things must be labeled as such, let hybrids reign. I hope they bring back “Cash for Clunkers” when I’m not student teaching and I actually have a paycheck again.

I already know my ultimate hybrid goal: to drive a hybrid car to a driving range with a hybrid golf club, wearing a skort, rocking a mullet, a spork in my lunchbox, and a liger waiting for me at home.

It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes
They call me on and on across the universe
Thoughts meander like a restless wind
Inside a letter box they
Tumble blindly as they make their way
Across the universe

Jai guru deva om
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world

–  “Across the Universe” by The Beatles


This is one of my scholars walking with a Baltimore City Police Officer. Never did I think I would see this sight. One of my girls, who has had numerous traumatizing interactions with cops, knows people who’ve been blatantly and wrongfully mistreated by cops, walking next to one talking about her goals for the future. This is hardly a problem solved. But it’s a start. Maybe a tiny one. But a start nonetheless. And it makes me think.

Dear Humans,

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Let that sink in. Let it flow from your corneas, lenses, retinas and to your brain. Let it tumble down from your brain and into your heart. And when your heart and your brain are ready to work together allow, “It doesn’t have to be this way” to dribble to your toes and feet and roll down to your fingertips and hands. Your heart and your brain and your hands and feet can all work together to prove that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Humans, sometimes I think that all we need to hear is that the way we’re proceeding is not the only option. Sometimes we just need to remember that stuck-ness is often more of a choice than an imprisonment. “I can’t do this because I have never done it before” is not valid reasoning. And “That’s not how we do things” or “But this is what I am used to” are lame excuses.

This thought, It doesn’t have to be this way, came to me the other day in a restorative yoga class. We were in a katonah version of half pigeon with all kinds of props–typically a very still posture–the teacher said to us, “Feel free to move around and keep playing with how this feels. Just because you’ve arrived doesn’t mean you need to remain the way you are.” Now, humans, I know she meant this in a totally literal way. A still posture doesn’t need to stay completely still and in yoga we get no points for being the most stagnant. It makes us no more peaceful than the chick on the next mat over. But I immediately thought of all of the ways that, we, we people, can be so stuck in our ways and our patterns and our jobs and our relationships and our “two cream, three sugar.”

And really, what more makes us human that our dynamic nature? Our ability to evolve? Our, quite honestly, lack of control of our own evolution: aging and growing and shrinking and graying and wrinkling and changing?

So, just because you’ve arrived, doesn’t mean you need to remain there. It doesn’t have to be this way.

When I thought about this, I did some googling. I came across an article called “America Doesn’t Have to Be Like This.” In it, the author, an Isreali American, Ilana Masad talks about our American political system, “It didn’t have to be this way, but this is how it is: there are still myriad ways in which minorities and marginalized people in the US suffer systemic oppression, and there is still so much money in politics that it boggles the mind and seems like an obvious, glaring flaw in the system. And so, what to do?”

And boy, do I hear her! I remember visiting the Vatican for the first time after 20 years of being Catholic and thinking of all of the pleas for the poor box and donations at church when the Catholic Mecca of sorts is quite literally coated in gold.

So it’s amazing, in the real sense of the word, that we have created a political system in which campaigns raise millions or billions of dollars for ads and attack ads; candidates spend years and careers preparing; and teams of people work toward one election. All of this to elect a person to “help” better any given neighborhood, town, city, county, state, country when that very money, those very resources, that immense energy could be enough to do just that.

And because it’s been this way, it keeps being this way. But does it have to?

I don’t pretend to have the solution to our pitiful political system and the most I’ve decided about the Vatican is that we could get a really tall ladder and some of those paint scraper things and just get some of that gold off of that ceiling. We will trade the gold for cash and give out micro loans in the world’s poorest communities.

But we all have ways in our lives that we can adjust, revise, adapt, bend, re-try, start over, etc. So maybe this mantra can help lead you where you’re headed or at the very least, shake you out of a pattern that isn’t serving you.

And as much as I loved “Across the Universe,” I think The Beatles were wrong when they said “nothing’s gonna change my world.” Frankly, they were on LSD by then and praising the Maharaja.

I’d argue that you are gonna change your world.


In the name of growth and dynamism and acceptance and love and forgiveness,



One optimistic (sort of) use of boarded windows and doors. #Baltimore

PS: Here are some tangible ways to make changes that I’ve shared with you in the past.



The Changing Legacy of 33rd Street

Image result for memorial stadium

I grew up four blocks and well-thrown baseball away from where Memorial Stadium used to be. This doesn’t mean much to most of the world but this is how I describe my parents’ house to Baltimore natives. In response there’s always a nod, a smile, and many times a story about seeing the Orioles or Colts win a big one on that hallowed ground during simpler days.

Baltimore is a city in which people locate landmarks and neighborhoods by what “used to be there”—not because there isn’t a replacement or we haven’t seen the new occupant yet—we are a people who cling to tradition and memory. We know this about one another and out of respect we give our directions based on the land uses of yore. It’s an unwritten language, just like the long drawl of the letter “o” that occurs when a Baltimorean’s lower jaw juts beyond the upper, particularly unabashedly during the National Anthem. “OH” say can you see?

Our neighborhood, Ednor Gardens Lakeside, sits in Northeast Baltimore one asphalt hill away from what is now a diversely populated YMCA and clusters of affordable housing for the elderly. The website for Ednor Gardens Lakeside scrolls through pictures of some of its Tudor-style homes wrapped in ivy or enveloped by hydrangeas, none of which look like the middle-of-group-row house where my mom used to read me Goodnight Moon in the early ‘90s. The site doesn’t display the water filtration plant that’s been littered with bulldozers and jersey walls for a decade. It omits images of the speed humps the city installed to stop gangs like the 12 O’clock Boys from ripping wheelies on dirt bikes down residential streets. And, maybe most dishonestly, it fails to include a picture of the spot where Memorial Stadium used to be.

Despite the glaring omission, as a YMCA and low-income community for the elderly, this place undoubtedly still carries on the great legacy of Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, home of the Orioles, the Colts, and the Ravens, the “Old Gray Lady of 33rd Street” though the “Lady” is no longer home.

The square of land that hosted Baltimore’s famous greats sits three blocks by three blocks in Ednor Gardens Lakeside. From the north on 36th Street peering above a row of leafy bushes, the downtown business district, three miles to the south, appears almost peaceful. From here soft clouds ripple gently around Baltimore’s tallest office buildings. Just over these bushes though, the immediate view has changed much more in 10 years than the distant—from a half-century of professional feats at Memorial to the recent decade where thousands of amateurs stretch in yoga, backstroke in the pool, and strike up strange conversations in the locker room.

On three sides of the square, stone and brick row homes stare at the space as they have since just after World War I. Most are well maintained. Perhaps speaking for their residents, they look complacent. They’ve watched their larger front yard greatly transform with little say .

The fourth side faces 33rd Street where treadmill runners behind wide panes of glass view cars going too fast past the building that used to be Eastern High School—huge and brick with sides that reach out like arms toward an old friend at right angles.

Just a few sidewalk tiles down was hallowed ground, if hallowed ground can be moved to past tense. The proud façade of Memorial Stadium stood there for almost 50 years mourning the dead and, for a time, immortalizing them in art deco lettering. Elongated silver letters—maybe better suited for a diner sign—solemnized those, “who so valiantly fought in the world wars with eternal gratitude to those who made the supreme sacrifice to preserve equality and freedom throughout the world.” The wall’s lone salvaged sentence is reassembled at Camden Yards, the Orioles’ current home, reading, “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.”

While time may not have touched the glory, the memorial itself is long gone. Memorial Stadium, as of 1950, featured the famous wall that was cause for controversy during the already controversial demolition. Local writer and filmmaker Charles Cohen wanted to capture that glory in its final years, months, and days. As co-creator of “The Last Season,” a documentary about the stadium’s end, Cohen spent two years interviewing Baltimoreans’ reactions to the end of their Memorial Stadium including its celebrated wall.

The wall, a central focus of the film, was slated to be the one part of the stadium remaining when the rest of the structure met its final wrecking ball in 2002. Cohen interviews fans coming to see an old friend a final time as they pillage seats, haul urinals, and lug Miller Lite signs. Some cry as they reminisce and see what remains. The fans in “The Last Season” look at a ghost, their memories fighting against the glorified memories of the stadium preserved in their heads.

Through making the film, Cohen says, he saw a “strange window into the Baltimore psyche.” Baltimore is an odd place, he says, “with that Brooklyn kind of grit but a lackadaisical viewpoint.” Baltimore clings to its past in a nostalgic way but its residents are often too complacent or laid-back to really fight for it. Like our old streetcars and steamships, Memorial Stadium slipped into disrepair and became a part of Baltimore’s history. There were 11th hour protesters. Citizens lobbied their elected officials. But where were they for so long as the structure sat rotting and unused for years?

With the rest of the stadium in piles like the makings of a giant bird’s nest, “The Last Season” shows fans celebrating the salvaged wall. The chorus of “at least they’re keeping the wall,” echoes across the site as Cohen interviews Baltimoreans. Then, despite the $750,000 in additional funds used for a special procedure involving a diamond blade saw and the wishes of many to salvage the famed memorial wall, it too was leveled following the rest of its body in 2002.

For some, the total demolition meant a promising community and business opportunity, an infuriating murder of a historic landmark for many others. In Cohen’s documentary, both sides lay out their positions but the more unforgettable, the more heartfelt, the more emotive are those who rattle off memories like its roll call, with tears in their eyes, their feet standing on scraggly weeds that blanket a once manicured field. Games with a late family member, claims from the mayor at the time to “respect” constituents’ desires, memories of the Orioles final game when two men dug up home plate with pick axes, hacking, hacking, hacking for nearly thirty minutes, unearthing and ripping out the heart of the old stadium to cart it off to the Os’ new home. Many interviewees start by talking into the camera and then morosely gaze out at what the stadium had become: vacant, forgotten, and a memory of its former self, barely deserving of an address there on 33rd Street.

In a different time, it didn’t dip below 60 degrees in Baltimore on Saturday, September 29, 1945 when 14-year-old Mary Lou Luczkowski and some of her friends attended a local high school football game at what was then called Municipal Stadium. She was a beauty—her curled brown hair bounced on her shoulders, her bright Polish eyes smiled when her mouth did. She was petite, good-humored, and smart, having skipped a grade in elementary school. It was during that Poly-Patterson High game right there on 33rd Street that she met 17-year-old Vince Papa, thin-faced and Sicilian and from a different part of town. To hear her tell it, his charisma and politeness won her over that day in the massive oval structure on 33rd Street.

Just a year earlier, the Baltimore Orioles, then a minor league team, moved their home to Municipal when their own Oriole Park and its wooden stands went up in flames overnight on July 3rd into the 4th, 1944. Municipal, built in 1922, was the choice venue for local and collegiate sports at the time. The game where my grandparents Mary Lou and Vince met was just another sporting event in a blue-collar town that hadn’t yet earned professional teams of its own.

The city gradually built its reputation as the home of sports enthusiasts and the Baltimore Colts football team stomped into 33rd Street in 1947. Seven years later in 1954 Granpop had finished up his military service. He had already won over and married Grammom and they were talking about children when the Baltimore Orioles came flying back to town, this time as a pro team. Vince, Mary Lou, and Baltimore finally had their team.

With the same address, Memorial Stadium replaced Municipal in 1950, the city opting for a more enclosed and modern structure. With a capacity of 31,000 spectators, 1954 marked the first season for the major league birds, a team from St. Louis in pursuit of a better market, and landed on there 33rd Street. Memorial Stadium was soon solidified as a sports Mecca in the middle of a residential neighborhood. It quickly earned the nickname, “World’s Largest Outdoor Insane Asylum.” And the Orioles and Colts were home.

Decades later when my parents bought their house around the way from Memorial in 1986, the stadium’s proximity was not a selling point, just a coincidence. Still, they both remember the days you could walk in unnoticed, for free after about the fourth inning while others freeloaded by watching from a fence with a view of the field. The stadium was a constant neighbor for the first decade and a half of their marriage.

Personally I can remember the lights sticking up over the hill at the end of our block. Cohen compares them to a black erector set and, if I look down the end of our street and then close my eyes, I can still see the glow from the top of that hill. White bursts erupting between black metal—an announcement of “game time” for everyone within an earshot range of a mile in every direction.

If the wind was right, we could hear players being called to bat from the stadium and right through our open windows. No air conditioning, just a hot Baltimore summer cooking our house and the echoed announcement of whatever Oriole was on deck. “Cal al al…Rip ip ip…ken ken kennnn.”

Most clearly, I can recall Jon Miller’s booming summertime voice throughout our house calling the Orioles’ plays over the constant drone of the huge metal fan that was once my height. Feats of the hometown team bounced off our walls emanating from an old silver radio, antenna pointing up as my dad did housework in cutoff jeans. I remember Dad explaining to me what Miller meant with his famous, “Give that fan a contract!” and Miller’s voice was like an anthem.

When the Orioles moved to Camden Yards in downtown Baltimore in 1992, the neighborhood felt a contradictory mixture of anger and peace, misery and relief. For a short time the stadium housed a championship Canadian Football League team, the Baltimore Stallions, who, despite success, failed to quench the football thirst of the city. So when Baltimore adopted the Cleveland Browns in 1996, in contrast to the way the Colts had been stolen from us in ’80, old trusty Memorial Stadium stepped up like the Giving Tree, happy to be needed once again. And all over, the lights over the hill beamed and loudspeaker hollers sailed to our front porch.

I remember only frustration on Sundays when my mom couldn’t find parking for “The Marshmallow,” her white hatchback Honda. We’d come home from church and she’d roar the manual engine around Ednor Gardens’ small streets talking about the “durn Ravens fans,” which we all are now. Impromptu cookouts sent smoke up from the grass lining our streets. Cans and tinfoil then lay abandoned after a mad rush to the gridiron. My mom recalls purposefully going out to pick up the spectators’ trash as they tailgated, giving them a mirror to see their disregard for our neighborhood.

By 1998, the Ravens had built their own nest, shiny and new and five whole miles from us. Parking woes were over, those lights stayed dark, and the voices were much too far to carry to our front porch. Memorial Stadium and its spot on 33rd Street were benched once again.

In the early 2000s the battle over the fate of the ground became fierce with Baltimore’s former mayor William Donald Schaffer fighting to keep the old stadium and the mayor at the time Martin O’Malley arguing for its removal. As Cohen shows in “The Last Season,” politicians fought for their constituents and seemingly for their own nostalgia in some cases.

My mom, in favor of the demolition, argued that as a resident of the neighborhood, a vagrant building that spanned 9 square blocks needed to go. She talked about friends from “the suburbs” (a phrase she always says with disdain) who wanted the stadium intact, “while we had been living here with this giant empty shell down the block.”

“It was time,” she says, then finds her way into a story about waiting in the parking lot in ’82 or ‘83 with one of her students, a boy with severe cerebral palsy. “Tyrone and I ended up in the elevator with Rex Barney [a former baseball player and Orioles announcer]. We asked where Eddie Murray parked and he actually told us,” she says.

On the steamy blacktop, Mom stood while 10-year-old Tyrone excitedly sat in his wheelchair with twisted limbs and bright eyes and they waited by Murray’s car. At the time, Murray was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner. He had been American League Rookie of the Year in 1977 but was known for his shy nature with the media and fans. Murray walked out of Memorial in civilian clothes expecting to drive away in his dark car, unperturbed; instead, he took one look at Tyrone and signed a ball for them graciously—and I can tell in her voice that she’s proud of this. She remembers snapshots like this fondly, but still thinks that in the early 2000s, “it was time.”

The YMCA, she says, serves everybody in the community, the way Memorial Stadium did, just in a different way. And there is the dichotomy of a people who are passionate about a ballpark and their history, but want growth for their city. How can Baltimore move onto the next without bidding adieu to the last? The month it finally opened in 2004, we signed up for a family membership to the new YMCA. My mom, dad, sister, and I have been working out there ever since.

“What temperature do you like to swim in?” a rotund, naked stranger asked of me recently.

“Oh I get used to it so quickly, it doesn’t really matter to me,” I said tightening my towel around my chest. The rest of my consciousness processed the familiar situation, and looked for a way to avoid staring at her bare body. I aimed my eyes at my book, but my place on the page pointed my gaze toward her stretched and drooping breasts. As I pierced my eyes through the paper, she began thoroughly toweling off, rubbing every crevice two feet from where I sat with my innocent little book. I crossed and uncrossed my legs, and crossed them again, keeping my towel over the same parts she flaunted.

“Haven’t been swimming in six weeks,” she continued as she bent down to wipe her legs. Her butt seemed to stop, and take a look at me, before widening as she lowered, then narrowing as she came back up.

I formed some reply about the therapeutic nature of swimming as she turned her body to face me. A small patch of pubic hair peeked in and out of sight as she shimmied the towel back and forth across her. The women’s sauna at the YMCA is rife with scenes like this one.

In that sauna, I have opened pores, polished off novels, held numerous conversations with strange naked people, caught a splinter in my butt, received an invitation to a line-dancing class. All within feet of where guys like Brooks Robinson, Johnny Unitas, and Cal Ripken put Baltimore on the map, where in the ‘50s, kids could be dropped off by their parents to watch the game unsupervised for 35 cents with a coupon from a box of cookies. A baseline away from where knuckleball pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm put up a no-hitter against the Yanks in September 1958 and the Colts hosted the NFL Championship in ’59, beating the Giants for the second consecutive year. Where in 1976 a plane crashed into the upper deck injuring no one because the Colts were losing so badly to the Steelers that everyone around had already left. Where, in teenaged innocence, my grandparents saw one another for the first time, and just around the way from where my parents made a life for us.Image result for waverly ymca

This YMCA serves Baltimore City with community outreach and engagement, programs for the elderly, summer camp for the young, after school care, nutrition education, a fitness center and pool, and so much more. The Y houses 4,000 “units” of membership (each unit can be as large as a family). I have played basketball there with my dad and run into old friends and harvest adrenaline. It’s a comfort after a long day to read a good book on the elliptical and then sweat in the sauna. I see the diversity of the people who go there and the wide range of activities that help the neighborhood where I grew up. While I know the loss of the stadium was heartbreaking for many Baltimoreans, this YMCA picks up where that community landmark left off and it serves the city. Athletes still play there; most are just significantly shorter and take many less steroids.

On a recent visit, I sat on a metal bench behind the new baseball park put in by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation in 2010. Home plate sits exactly where home plate sat in 1991 when the last O’s game was played here. Looking beyond the field, leafless trees reach with tendrils pointed skyward, the elderly housing complexes dot the perimeter where people once parked their Chevy Novas and Ford Pintos. The turf field looks impossibly green for February. And ever faithful, the row homes look down.

A girls’ lacrosse team practiced that day, running suicides as the coach yelled and whistled. Cries of “Oh mah gawwwd,” rang out and other girls yelled, “Stop complainin’!”

“Leave it all on the field! Leave it all on the field! Leave it all on the field!” hollered the coach. And I thought about all the Baltimoreans who had done just that. Right here. They left it all on the field. And I re-wrote something I’ve said so often to explain my neighborhood, “I grew up down the street from the 33rd Street YMCA.”



Works Cited

  1. Alexander, Gregory J., and Paul Kelsey Williams. Lost Baltimore. London: Anova, 2013. Print.
  2. Brown, Bob. House of Magic. Baltimore: The Orioles, Inc., 1991. Print.
  3. Cohen, Charles. Phone interview. 13 February 2014.
  4. Doran, Nancy. Personal interview. 15 February 2014.
  5. Eby, Skip. Phone interview. 13 February 2014.
  6. James, Mary Lou. Personal interview. 15 February 2014.
  7. The Last Season. Charles Cohen and Joseph Mathew. Eyesore, 2002. Film.
  8. Papa, Michael. Personal interview. 28 February 2014.
  9. YMCA of Central Maryland website. 16 February 2014. Web.


Gray Areas or “Would you rather?”



The space between the gray areas.

At the Red Canoe Cafe in Hamilton, Baltimore City, the tip jar is always a “Would you rather…?” situation. You vote with your tip—highly motivational. It’ll be something like apples or bananas or Barney and Friends or Sesame Street, maybe a day at the beach or a day on the mountains or waterskiing vs. snow skiing. They’re easy choices that people feel unwarrantedly passionate about.

When I am traveling with Chas, I find myself in these “Would you rather” situations quite often. First off, Chas is our vice president in charge of planning but he also always asks for my opinion and when we’re traveling we have so many more choices than we typically have in everyday life. This begins when we select our destinations, though for our current trip, we allowed that to be almost completely dictated by finding the lowest flight prices for a desirable location during this week I have off from school.

Choice is a luxury, right? If we have the ability to choose things, it’s often because something is going right for us. I’m not talking about apples vs. bananas here (though bananas are cheaper) rather, choice comes when we have enough money to choose one mode of transportation or another, we have the ability to choose one journey or another, selecting a university, being able to choose where we live and in what type of house.

I’m increasingly more aware of the luxury of choice with the more time I spend with my kids from school. If you grow up in poverty, choice is limited. Choice in schools, choice in transportation, choice in housing and free time and so many more ripple effects that result from those absences of choice. The lack of these “black and white” choices are why I see so many things in gray, especially the older I get. As a child, everything is black and white. Strangers are scary. Adults are stable and always choose right. History books are trustworthy. Politicians are smart. Airplanes on crash over bodies of water. The more life you live, the less things are black and white. Gray becomes home.

For example, to bring it back to poverty in Baltimore: it’s not one’s simple choice to remain in poverty or to rise out of it. It’s not a simple choice to trudge through high school with mediocre grades, making it to the end of twelfth grade with one class standing in the way of a diploma or to launch one’s way through high school with straight As and into a great college with a scholarship. That’s not one easy choice. It’s not black vs. white. The cycle of poverty is as gray as an elephant’s back. Those diverging paths include thousands or millions of tiny choices influenced by one’s family and friends and the people on the corner who she walks by on the way to school and the boyfriend and her boyfriend’s mom and so on. But this blog isn’t about those gray areas. I think we should live there in that gray area most of the time and sometimes, it’s kind of fun to take a break.

So, here’s a pretty black and white “Would you rather” list ala Amandy. I’d love you to weigh in too.


Airbnb or hotel/hostel

I should paint this picture from a recent experience first, or the choice is unfair. I prefer Airbnb. Almost always. I love seeing the homes, the neighborhoods, talking to the people, getting reviewed, seeing the maps, looking at the fine touches. Also, quite simply, the Airbnb website makes sense to me. Actual humans respond, there are photos, it’s a bit like shopping for real estate.

This week, Chas and I have been in various places in Scandinavia and have mostly stayed in Airbnb spots. We did stay in one hostel. A former prison, turned hostel. Put your thoughts on just that aside for now because this is more about booking than anything. Because of the random nature of the site I used to book the prison hostel (a typical hotel finder website), I booked the wrong prison hostel in Sweden, meaning there are at least two prison hostels in Sweden and I selected and paid for the wrong one. This would not have happened with Airbnb. Fair preference? Maybe not. But I prefer Airbnb.

Still or sparkling

Absolutely still. Sparkling water is a nice treat when I am hungry but it’s too close to dinner time. But in terms of refreshment and replenishment, sparkling has nothing on still.

Red white or white wine

Seventy five percent of the time, I choose white wine. Red wine looks bad on teeth, feels weird in my belly, and is significantly more likely to give me a headache. Give me a sauvignon blanc any day.

Manicure or pedicure

This is tricky. For self-care, definitely a pedicure. Pedicures feel nice and include a mini leg massage. Manicures are more about walking away fancy. Oddly, I think I prefer walking away fancy and choose mani over pedi. While it’s a time and financial commitment, both is best.

 The Bachelor or The Bachelorette

While I shamelessly watch both and have for years, I prefer watching The Bachelorette. Not only does it come out in spring, a happy time generally, I love seeing all of the bros in incredibly vulnerable situations. I like watching them pick one another apart and lose their patience and lie and then get caught. It’s a great case study in good looking idiots.

Fiction or nonfiction

Obviously, I write nonfiction. When I try to write fiction, I think I sound ridiculous. Nothing seems real or believable or authentic. Nonfiction just feels right to me. And this world offers plenty of stories.

When I read, I have a slight preference for fiction. For listening to podcasts or watching TV, nonfiction hands down.

Tea or coffee

Coffee is my lifeblood. It makes the world make sense. It softens my sharp edges, gives me power, makes the world make sense, at least enough.

Ketchup or mustard

I hate ketchup. It’s so distant from the tomato, so sugary, so unnecessary. How long ago were those tomatoes grown? At Oriole games during the condiment race, I will always root for mustard or relish. Given the choice between ketchup or mustard, mustard every time.

Window seat or aisle seat

I get why people prefer the aisle, but I want the window. I want something to lean on for naps. The aisle offers no rest for the weary and planes make me very weary.

Kevin Costner or Kevin Bacon

Kevin Costner has been my older man crush for years. Think For the Love of the Game Kevin Costner. He’s a baseball pitcher who’s unapproachable and hard-edged but certainly soft and cuddly on the inside. Think Message in a Bottle Kevin Costner. He’s a waterman, gruff, and alone. Okay, okay, so he always plays the same character. But it’s a character I love.

And something about the space between Kevin Bacon’s nose and top lip weirds me out. All I can do is stare at it. Costner has got my vote.

Right or left side of the bed

This is a trick question, my choice will always be wherever the reading lamp is and wherever there’s a side table for my water.

Doctor or Dentist

If you’ve met my dentist (and an strange number of you actually have), you’ll already know my answer. I will take dentist over doctor any day. The doctor includes all sorts of unknowns and chances. The wait at the doctor is always head-scratching-long to me too. I mean, why bother having appointments? At the dentist, Dr. Bryan always takes me right back. The dentist lasts a predictable amount of time and there are a predictable set of activities. With the doctor, the clock is irrelevant. There could be shots or blood draws or maybe you lost an inch of height. I’ll take the dentist any day.


The gray area is mostly where I’ll stay. But when I get to choose black or white, I’m happy to and I can be pretty polarized. Would you rathers are a luxury, though. And while I stay in the gray, I promise to remember that.